Tuesday, January 30, 2018

It's For Your Own Good

We are a weight-conscious culture. The good news is that we are trying to focus on being healthy, rather than on being thin, and we know that being overweight can cause a myriad of health problems. Getting our kids to understand that difference is a good goal. Communicating that message, especially to teens is a complicated one. As you know, having gone through your own bout of puberty, a teen may feel that their body is growing in ways that are completely out of their control. They see friends who grow long and lean while their body seems to do the opposite. They see friends able to eat their weight in junk food, not gaining an ounce, while a single chip sends their  weight soaring. Then to top it all off they have parents who may say things like: "Do you think you should be eating that?" Or "Haven't you had enough?' Further illustrating that they must be fat losers!

Talking about weight with your teen is really hard. Unless they are a super-confident kid and their weight causes them no issues, your teen probably feels worse and more worried than you are about their weight. It might be especially hard for them if you are a healthy eater, fitness buff, and look amazing. Knowing that your mom is "hotter" than you, or your dad is "ripped" and more fit than you can be a competition they feel they can't win.

So what do you do if you have a teen whose weight you can see is making them feel like sh*t? Maybe you see them hiding themselves in oversized clothes, or choosing to wear clothes their friends are wearing even if they are completely unflattering to their bodies. Maybe there is a tantrum every time they leave the house, with every bit of clothing on their bedroom floor, discarded because it makes them look "fat." You, standing on the other side of the door, knowing that if they just exercised more,  ate less, and ate healthier, could avoid this drama filled daily event.

Well, one thing you shouldn't do is to say those things out loud to your teen. Those kinds of lecturing comments tend to drive teens to do the opposite of what you are suggesting; eat more and eat bad!
What we can say is " I get how hard this weight thing is for you. It doesn't seem fair to see friends not have to deal with this issue at all, eating all they want, and still staying thin. It is so unfortunate that your genes don't work that way."

It's important to take the blame off your teen, you don't want to put them on the defensive. Give them an opportunity to give voice to their real feelings about this issue. Many kids who have a weight problem are uncomfortable doing exercise in public. They feel like people are looking at them and judging their weight, their ability. Maybe their face turns bright red when they exert themselves and they are embarrassed about that. (I sometimes love doing exercise programs on demand on my TV in the privacy of my own home!)Try asking them about that. "Tell me some things you don't like about exercising, and let's see what we can figure out would work for you" rather than, "if you just exercised more, you would feel better about yourself."

Trust me, no teen wants to have a weight issue. But it feels so hard for them to turn it around. Obviously, make sure you have healthy choices in your home. Having tubs of ice cream in the freezer, bottles of soda or fruit juice, chips and snacks, and cookies are just too tempting.

This is a tricky and emotionally laden issue for parents to navigate with their teens. They feel your judgement and disappointment, and their own self-consciousness with their peers. It's a double whammy. Help them to understand and appreciate their own uniqueness and help them to develop strategies that work for them.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

She Says....He Says...The Dance of Sexual Consent

When I was an older teen and young adult, I engaged in consensual sex with men. OK don't be shocked I haven't always been 66!!! I didn't always like it, I didn't always want to, and it didn't always feel good. But I remember feeling a lot of the time that I just didn't know how to get myself out of a situation I had gotten myself into.  I didn't seem very good at communicating what I wanted, and the men didn't seem very good at picking up my sometimes less than direct cues. Truth be told, I may at times have felt that it was just easier to get it over with and be on my way. At other times, I really liked the guy and in my distorted thinking felt that if I went along with it, maybe he would become my boyfriend. Never ever do I remember the guy hesitating at all... all he wanted was the sex! He was totally and completely clear about that!

Times haven't really changed that much when it comes to women and men and sex. Lord knows the news has been chock full of stories, with all the lurid details,  of sexual encounters women felt a loss of control to stop. I don't want to rehash those stories here. It is not the stories that are important, it is how best we can teach our teen girls to be direct and to take care of themselves, and to teach our teen boys to understand and respect, the sometimes not so direct messages the girls they are sexually engaging with are giving them. Teen boys are horny!!!! They do not have a lot of motivation to make sure that the girl they are with is 100% on board. Never mind when there is alcohol or drugs involved.

Here are some common phrases that woman say to men to convey a desire to stop the sex train from leaving the station. Below them, are the phrases men use to convince the woman the train is going to leave the station!

Imagine if you will, a guy and gal in the throes of foreplay. They both seem into it. The gal may just be enjoying the cuddling, the kissing and the gentle body caresses. The guy is like..ok that was fun, lets get on with the main event.

The gal, happy with just the previews may say things like this:

"Oh, it's late....I have to get home" Subtext: "I don't want to go any further, this is getting out of control.
" Oh I have my period." Subtext I don't want to have sex!!!
" This is going to fast for me"  Subtext: This feels scary and I want to stop
"I'm not ready to do this." Subtext: I don't want to hook up with you!"
" Stop!!! I don't want too do this anymore. Subtext: Stop, NO! Get Off Me!!!

The guy, sensing a retreat and not wanting to give up this chance for sex replies in kind to the above:
" Oh don't worry, I promise I'll get you home on time!"
"Oh I don't mind, I love doing it when girls have their periods!!
"Oh , but I like you so much, we're just getting close, or "OK, let's just chill for a while(but then starts right up again)
" Don't be a tease!!! You started it...You've been all over me for like an hour...you can't tell me you don't want to have sex!!

I'm sure that this list could be much longer and if you have anything to add please put it in the comment section!

Here is the thing. We can't just leave the sex thing to take care of itself. The teen years set a foundation for how these young sexually active people will feel about sexual intimacy, as they move into young adulthood.  Will sex become something that is mutually enjoyable, or is it just a one sided exercise in taking care of yourself?  We need to teach our teens how to read the language of sexual consent, so that when they are adults they will be fully versed!

I know this is a hard blog to read. It is not easy thinking of your teen as a sexual being, but they are! They are engaging in "sexual firsts" that will set the stage for all the sexual seconds, thirds, and more as they move into adulthood. We teach them about empathy and kindness and reciprocity, but rarely in the context of sexual intimacy!! Use the news stories for jumping off discussions. Don't linger on the specifics, go right to "I get you might be in a sexual situation like this, and I want to make sure you understand how to either take care of yourself so that you never feel pressured to do more than you're comfortable with, if you're the parent of a girl, or for the parent of a boy, "I want to make sure that you understand that not all girls have the confidence yet to be direct and to clearly say no. I want you to understand how girls think, and that what they say will give you very clear cues about how far they are willing to go." You are teaching your teens to be responsible and responsive sexual partners!!! Now get on that sex train!!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Helping Your Teens To Take Ownership Of Their Future!!!

A parent called me the other day with worry about her son who is a junior in high school. She is worried about his lack of self-direction, and cannot imagine how he will ever be able to even think about the college application process and all it entails when he becomes a senior, when he can't even get himself out of bed in the morning, or work independently to get any of his homework completed, especially any kind of research or writing assignments.

I asked what role she and her husband play with regard to their son. What kind of strategies did they employ to keep him motivated and on task? And then the plot thickened. It seems the dad is heavily invested in his son's future. Dad has a strong relationship with his college Alma Mater and would be heartbroken if his son did not continue to carry the torch for his beloved college. His older daughter is currently a student there. In pursuit of this goal, the father has become CEO of his son's life.

Here are a few examples: His son is on the varsity football team of his high school. He is a good player, not a phenomenal player. Dad attends all his games armed with a video camera, as many parents do, so that 20 years hence they can show their grandkids how cute their dad was in a football uniform. Not this dad. He videos each game so that he and his son can engage in a play-by-play of all his plays to see what this kid did right or wrong. Imagine how this teen feels when he has had a bad game or fumbled the ball one too may times. Not only does he have to answer to his teammates, and his coach, but then he has to go home and face "the man".

Another example: This teen has ADHD and is on medication to help with concentration and attention. When this teen has a paper to do, or an assignment with some heft to it, the father is all over him. Requesting draft after draft, editing, and reediting his son's assignment, both often up till the wee hours of the morning when the paper is due. Needless to say this teen becomes overwrought and overwhelmed by his dad's expectations of him. But the mom reports that this teen is so afraid of his dad's disappointment in him, that he has yet to speak up for himself and tell his father to f**k off!!! Which would be my therapeutic intervention.  No wonder this kid has a hard time getting up in the morning. Facing another day of trying to measure up must be exhausting for him. No wonder it takes him so long to complete an assignment, it never feels good enough.

This is an important story. Many parents have a "grand plan" for their kids. How wonderful it would be if everything went according to plan. But your kids bring their own strengths and weaknesses, passions and personalities to the table. And they don't always match with what you see for their future. This dad's Alma Mater could not be a worse match for his son. Maybe the kid is good enough in football to get him in, but academically this kid would be lost at sea, feeling inadequate and never quite good enough. A professional football career is clearly not in the cards, so a failing academic experience could injure him much more profoundly psychologically in the long term than a full out tackle.

This mom is right, this teen is so over-managed that he is developing few skills in becoming an independently motivated and self-directed person. He doesn't need to because his dad is doing it for him.

Please parents, do not set your teen up for failure. Be realistic about who your child is. Help them to set realistic goals for themselves, and allow them to become the person they are meant to be. Adolescence is all about identity development. Who am I? How am I the same as or different from my parents, my friends, or Katniss from The Hunger Games? The term Identity Foreclosure is a term we in the healing arts use to describe situations like this boy and his dad described above. This dad has foreclosed on his son's ability to develop his own sense of who he is and who he wants to become. He is so busy becoming what  dad wants, that he may be losing his "real" self in the process. Refinance! Open up the possibility of true ownership!!!!

PS. Do you know I have a service called "A Quick Question?" You bank $100 for one hour of my phone coaching time. Sometimes an issue comes up with your teen that does not require a full hour of help. Sometimes you face a time-sensitive question that may only require a 15 min...here's what you can do!  You email me any background I might need. I study and think about it, so when we talk, we can get right to strategy. contact me @ joani@joanigeltman.com or 781-910-1770

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I Can't Do This!!!!!

I know this must sound familiar! That ridiculous math problem that even someone with a PHD from MIT couldn't figure out. That really happened by the way. When my daughter was in middle school the powers that be decided to try out a new math curriculum. Let me just say that not only did this curriculum bring the kids to tears, but all the parents as well. We would bump into each other at our local supermarket, and discuss the previous night's homework as if it were our own. "Do you believe last nights assignment, I want to kill the person who designed this damn curriculum," we would say to each other. And truly there was an MIT mathematician parent in the class, and even he reported throwing the textbook across the room. Let's just say we weren't the best role models for our kids.

Sometimes your teen's homework is frustrating, perplexing and just plain hard. If your teen has a low frustration tolerance, giving up seems like the smartest strategy. Or if you have a teen who has breezed through elementary and middle school, and now the work is finally challenging, they are caught off guard, "ooh, maybe I'm not as smart as I thought I was." Or maybe the assignment is just plain boring. Whatever the case, they might actually come to you for a solution, like just giving them the answer. In the above example, I think all of us parents agreed that this curriculum was completely turning the kids off to math, and setting them up for total math anxiety. We were powerless to change the curriculum, but you can bet your bottom dollar that we gave some very honest feedback to the math department head. But that didn't help in the short term when our kids were crying and saying they were stupid. What we could do though was acknowledge for the kids that this was tough stuff, and to do the best they could, and truly it wasn't that they weren't smart enough. A lot of kids got pretty mediocre math grades that year, but most of us just let it go. Really, what's the big deal, 7th grade grades are not figured in for college!

When your teen comes to you for help, your first job is to diagnose the problem. Try to refrain from jumping into problem solve, or conversely criticize them for giving up too soon. Start with this instead: " I get this assignment is really frustrating for you. Tell me where you're stuck?" Maybe they just need you to break down the assignment into smaller more manageable pieces. Teens often can't see the forest through the trees, and because they are inpatient and want to breeze through the subjects they really hate, they get overwhelmed from the beginning. You can help by having them break down the assignment into steps, and get them to spend 15 minutes on the first step and then take a break. When they have success with one step, it gives them motivation to begin the next one. They need a ton of encouragement and understanding. " I know this stuff doesn't come easy to you, but I know you can get it." If you jump in and do the work, they take away two things. One, Yay, I can get mom or dad to do my work, and I am off the hook, and two, maybe mom and dad don't think I can do it, and so they don't want me to screw up with the teacher, so they want to do it for me.
I know of a young woman, now a graduate student, whose dad wanted to get her into his Alma mater, so in high school he basically wrote all her papers, college essays etc. He continued in college to edit, and I use that term loosely her papers.  Now as a grad student in a program that is making her a carbon copy of him, she is unable to complete the work without him. This is an extreme example, but you can see the problem here.

Your teen needs your confidence that he/she can succeed, and is not lazy just frustrated. You are  available for support and consultation but the ownership of the work always belongs with him/her. Having realistic expectation is a must. Your teen will have areas of strength, areas of weakness, and areas that he/she is just not that interested in. And that is just fine! No kid is good at everything!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Gifts Of A Parent: The Person Your Teen Will Become

Last week I visited my 98 year old aunt and uncle who now live in Florida. Not only were they very much alive and well, but that they still have each other, and clearly are still so much in love is remarkable! I haven't been a very good niece. It's been at least 20 years since I last saw them. My aunt would call every few years, I would feel terribly guilty that I hadn't called her, and then I'd promise myself I would be better, but then I didn't and I wasn't.

My Aunt GG was my father's youngest sister. My father died when I was 13 and after that we didn't see his side of the family very often. When we did have a visit it was always wonderful and warm, but unfortunately not very regular. They all lived in New York, and my mom was a widowed single working mother and we just didn't get away very much.

As an adult, and now though I loath to say it, an older adult (cue, but Joani you still look so young) I have been thinking a lot about my childhood and who I have become. Apparently doing a life review is an important process of moving into the "twilight years." Having lost my dad at 13, I would often ask myself what would I have been like? Who would I have been if my dad had been with me throughout my life? How would I have turned out differently? Questions that have always plagued me, thinking if I only had a dad......

The yearning to see my Aunt GG and Uncle Freddie I think were rooted in these questions and realizing that they were my last connection to my dad, and the last of a generation,  I suddenly felt this urgency to connect with them.

What a profound and meaningful visit. We talked for many hours about many things. The stories they shared were evident of a life full of meaning and passion. Eventually we came to talk about my dad. And I asked if they would tell me about him. Unfortunately I have been left with few memories of him. I think when one suffers a traumatic and unexpected loss of a beloved parent at a young age, memories get lost. Not only because the loss itself is so painful, but also because as a child and young adolescent you live in the moment and don't know that unknowingly you are absorbing all the life and relationships and experiences that later will become the fabric of who you become.

My Uncle Freddie said to me "Joani, your dad was the most special person I ever knew, and I have known a lot of people." I asked if he could tell me what made him so special. " it is so hard to put into words the quality of the man he was," he said. "He was so compassionate and kind, full of empathy. He was so smart and funny, and when you talked to him you felt like you were the most important person in the world." My Aunt GG said the same. We talked some more and it was time to go. I sat in my car and wept, not out of sadness for the loss and the time I hadn't had with him, but for the understanding that so much of who I am and how I try to live in the world is because I experienced it from him, and unknowingly it had become the very fabric of who I am. I celebrated that the 13 years I had with my dad, during those formative years of childhood, have been a part of me, and lived in me without my even knowing it.

When I returned home, I called my beloved daughter to tell her all that I had experienced. And she brilliantly said: "mom, isn't that what you tell the parents you work with all the time? That what is going on with your teens in the present, may be difficult and uncomfortable, but that the teen years are just a moment in time. You tell them they have already done the major work of parenting in those childhood years, of teaching values and providing them with experiences and love and the meaning of family and relationships. You had those 13 years with your dad, and he is inside you! She is a smart one my daughter!

And that is why I have told you this story of my visit with my 98 year old Aunt GG and Uncle Freddie.  To remind you that what you may be experiencing now with your teen: the fear for their safety, the worry for their future, the expectations not realized, is all part of a much bigger picture. Bring your lens back into wide focus. They need these teen years to experiment and play with all that is inside them; all that you have already given to them; and fit that  together with the personality and temperament they were born with. And through this process they will become a fully integrated adult. That is a tall order!

I am both myself and my mom and my dad. You have already given your teen many gifts, and now it's time to let them play!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Snapshot Into Your Teen's World

I got a call from a parent the other night saying that while she was cleaning up her teen's room she found a suspicious substance. Hanging up her daughter's discarded clothing choices that lay abandoned on the floor, she noticed a large baggie full of water in the closet. Inside that baggie was another baggie with what looked like melted jello. The mom was wondering what this substance could be. She couldn't bring herself to taste test not knowing how long said substance had been sitting in the closet, and not wanting to send the substance to a drug lab (only kidding) she called me.

My first thought is that it was a melted jello shot (favorite method for kids to ingest alcohol.) Mix copious amounts of vodka into jello, refrigerate, cut into cubes and jiggle away! It may have been that at the end of a party there were leftovers, and the teens decided that rather than throw away this delicious treat, they would divvy up the spoils, pack them in ice to prevent melting and go on their way. I'm guessing this teen hid it in her closet to save for a rainy day, and then completely forgot about it.

Obviously the first step here is to show the teen what you have found, and ask her/him to identify the substance. I can predict that most teens, even when there is some evidence presented will go directly into denial mode, as in "wow, I don't know what that is, I don't know where it came from." Claiming ignorance is a much safer strategy. In this case, the parent needs to put out her suspicion without sarcasm and judgement. " You know honey, I think this is a melted jello shot" The teen will probably be shocked that you even know what that is! Teen will probably say "it belonged to a friend, someone left it in her room, yadayadayada."

Honestly, at this point, the good news is that the parent found it, and this can lead to discussion on the danger of jello shots, which is really the point!!! Many teens don't see this form of alcohol ingestion as dangerous, after all its jello! but each one of those jello treats can hold 1 ounce of booze, and if you pop a bunch of those sweet treats quickly, you can have dangerous levels of alcohol in your system before you know it.

Cleaning your teen's room  can sometimes provide wonderful opportunities for discussion. You don't even need to snoop, just doing a cursory clean is a window into your teen's life. Is your teen's room full of discarded clean clothes? Rather than getting angry and yelling at them about a lack of respect for their clothing, you might start a discussion like this: " When I was straightening up this morning I noticed how many clothing options you rejected. It must be really hard sometimes to feel like you look OK." What a great conversation you might have about self-image. Because that is what is really going on, teens are trying on options, which is another way of saying they are trying on personas. Who am I today??

Or maybe you find discarded homework papers, or alot of disorganization with school stuff. Rather than being critical and saying "no wonder you can't get any homework done, your desk is a mess! You might say: " When I was straightening up this morning, I noticed alot of school stuff laying around. I know it's hard sometimes to keep everything organized, your days are really full, how can I help?"

Or perhaps you find some scary stuff, drugs, pipes, booze. Now at least you know and you can address the problem.

Cleaning your teen's room is window into their world. If you treat their room as their private domain, you may be missing some really important clues into their life. Sometimes your teen is going through things they can't articulate or are afraid to tell you about. Initiating conversation, and I emphasize conversation and NOT INTERROGATION lets your teen know that you care about them and are looking out for them.

When my daughter was a teen, her life was extremely busy, often not getting home from school until 5 or 6. Dinner, homework, outfit decisions for the next day, and staying in touch with friends pretty much took up her whole night. Usually once a week I would tackle her room, hanging up clothes, pile up books etc. When she went up to her room after a long day, saw her comfy bed made, a floor with no clothes,and a desk she could work, she was always grateful. When you do something for your teen that shows understanding for their life and how hard it can be sometimes, you are giving them the best gift ever!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Back Seat Parenting: Put On The Brakes!!!

I was working out at my Gym over the weekend, huffing and puffing my way through some sit-ups while a small group training class was taking place around me. In this group of 5 was a dad and his teenage son. Oh, I thought, how lovely that the're sharing this time together doing something they both love to do. Well it turns out, I think it was just the dad who loves working out. I only surmised this after ogling his very ripped and toned body!!! Hey I'm only human! The son it turns out, not ripped and toned. Tall and skinny and clearly suffering through this workout at the behest of his dad. The trainer was a great guy; enthusiastic, supportive and doing his best to be this boy's cheerleader. The dad on the hand, grunting and groaning through his own lifts with some major wight poundage, still managed to yell out to his son going through his own workout; " use your abs!!!! and "lift don't swing those weights." As you can imagine, this boy/man now beat red in the face, rolled his eyes, and glared menacingly at his dad. The bubble over his head saying: "You know who I'd like to swing these weights at?????"

You are all good at something. And you hope, wish, and pray that maybe your kids will be good at the same things you're good at. Isn't that the circle of life? Maybe it all works out that way, but usually not, and especially not when your kids are teenagers. The last thing they want, is to be any which way at all like you!

Perhaps writing is your thing, and you are an editor extraordinaire; your teen's in-house managing editor. But believe me, your teen is shaking in his Adidas when you walk in the room asking to see his latest writing assignment. Feeling inadequate, measured against your experience and writing finesse, he has only written a few sentences, and you balk at his procrastination. Or perhaps you are a math wizard, and your teen's frustration tolerance for challenging math homework rivals a two year old's tantrums. And your frustration over their lack of understanding drives you mad.

Maybe you are a tennis(insert any sport you love) enthusiast, and have had your teen in tennis clinics since they were old enough to hold a racket. You have dreamed of these teenage years when you can get on the court together and play ball! You have so much to offer and teach, and believe me you do!! "take a full swing, throw the ball higher when you serve, run goddamn it, you could have gotten that volley!" Sounds like fun to me.

Get the point? The quickest way to squash enthusiasm in your teen is by offering your unsolicited "feedback."You have got to tread lightly in the coaching department. If they have actual coaches than let them do the work, and be the supportive cheerleader. Let their teachers do their job, and understand with your teen their frustration and their worry about being good enough, rather than adding to their worry about being good enough..for you. Adolescence is a time of life when defining themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses is a huge challenge. They are feeling enough of their own-self imposed pressure and expectations. Living up to yours should not be more important than living up to their own.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

When Is A Bad Day Just A Bad Day?

I have had a number of calls recently from parents worried about their teen, trying to figure out whether their teen is just having growing pains, or is in a real depression. Teens love to dump on their parents, giving them their most angry, their most sad, their most anxious and fearful feelings. This is the good news. Think of it as colic. When the bad stuff gets expelled, then sleep and peace can come...until the next time.

Teens are feeling their feelings in ways they have never experienced them before. The intensity comes from an adolescent brain that is over activated in the area responsible for emotion, and literally from having some of these feelings for the first time. Without experience and a history that would have given them a game plan to deal with these feelings that are overwhelming, they are vulnerable to feeling like they might never go away. The first break-up, a humiliation on a soccer field, or a stage, the embarrassment of doing something or saying something impulsively stupid in front of your peers, the disappointment that someone you like doesn't like you back, the worry that they are disappointing you in some way, or any one of a million other things can feel like a catastrophe.

So your kid comes to you in a rage, in a tantrum, sobbing uncontrollably and you feel helpless. But they are coming to you. Like a sponge, you absorb every drop of emotion. You can't sleep, you can't eat, you live with a pit in your stomach that your kid is in pain. But here is the thing, now that they have dumped it all on you and you have so graciously sopped it all up, they are free to go out and enjoy life again. Rinse and repeat!

When is it time to worry? The dumping is a good sign. The emotion is a good sign. They are working it out.  It may be hard on you, but at least they have an outlet. The worry should start, if they are not talking, isolating themselves, and really seem to have lost the up and down nature of teen life. Up and down is good. Staying down is not.  If you see your teen spending increasing amounts of time alone, in their room, avoiding family and friends, you might say something like this: " I have noticed recently that you seem more down than usual. You seem to be spending a lot of alone time in your room away from us and your friends. I get life can be complicated and difficult and sometimes overwhelming, and you might like just getting away from it all. I used to do that to sometimes. But I worry that you are not giving yourself a chance to talk about it. If you don't want to talk to us, I understand, maybe it would be helpful to talk to a counselor. I don't want to bug you, but I love you, and want you to work out what seems to be bothering you. I'll check back in with you in a few days, and we can talk about a plan." You will probably get a "leave me alone!" but don't let that deter you. Keep checking in, and letting them know that you are concerned. Eventually, you may just have to make an appointment and make them get in the car.

Seeing your teen be in pain is the worst. Giving them a safe haven to express it is a gift.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

One New Year's Resolution At A Time

Happy New Year! On your way to the gym, and after you have only eaten healthy food in order to lose 10 pounds, and when you have cleaned out your closets and gotten rid of all your non-essentials, and when you have finished your salad, no dressing for lunch, and then walked for 30 minutes instead of having a hostess cupcake(does anyone eat hostess cupcakes anymore), and then did everything on your "to-do" list at work or at home before your kids come home, and made sure that you accomplished everything on your new years resolution list, then take a deep breath and say thank god this day is over.

The problem with New Years resolutions is that we make too many of them, and then never really follow through on any of them. The same thing also happens with parenting. I might meet with parents for an hour, and in that time we come up with a game plan that includes a number of strategies to improve whatever situation brought them in to see me. I always caution them to pick one issue, and one strategy, stick with making that one change, integrating it into their parenting bag of tricks before they take on something else. Imagine trying to teach you dog how to sit, come, and roll over all in the same training session. Eventually they just look at you, with that adorable cocked head, and know you are absolutely crazy. Teens are the same way. If a new regime takes over, and you start changing all the rules at the same time, your teen will look at you with that adorable cocked head, and say,"What are you crazy?"

Perhaps over this vacation, you have had time to reflect on your relationship with your teen, or thought about some areas you think you need to help your teen with. Maybe you want to be less negative and focus less on what they don't do and more on what they can do. Maybe you are worried about homework focus and cell-phone use, or their organization and time-management issues, or their attitude and how they talk to you. I am sure there are a million things that could go on this list. Pick one and only one, and then think of a simple strategy to address it, and then follow through on it, consistently!

Teens hate change. They resist it, and will fight you every step of the way. This is not really their fault. So much of adolescence is about change; changing bodies, changing moods, changing relationships, changing expectations. They are so overwhelmed by all these changes, which for the most part are out of their control, that they tend to hang on to those things that have become almost ritualistic whether they are good for them or not. So before you institute any changes in rules, or expectations first make sure you acknowledge with them that change is hard. You can say: "I've been thinking about ________________, and it seems like we need to work on this. I know you are used to ________________, and doing it a different way will be an adjustment, I get it. Lets figure out a way together to make it work.  Including them in the strategy building helps them to take ownership of it. Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially teens. The key here is not the choosing of whether or not there will be some change but how it will make it easier for them to be successful at adjusting to it.